10 Biggest Ever Box Office superstars of Bollywood - Part 1
11 February 2021, 7:13 pm
"To be a star is to own the world and all the people in it." - Hedy Lamarr
Stardom is a mystical phenomenon. Driven by its quirks, sometimes it eludes even the most gifted artists but perches comfortably on fortunate few... even if fleetingly! And it's more tangible, and brings fabulous riches and clout, than artistic mumbo-jumbo spouted by avant-garde aficionados.
Here is the 1st part of the series '10 biggest ever Box Office superstars of Bollywood'. The rankings are strictly based on their Box Office pull, overall record, popularity and stardom.
1) Amitabh Bachchan
What makes Amitabh the biggest superstar in the annals of Bollywood, apart from a plethora of huge grossers, is his unparalleled longevity, consistency and adaptability. No other star has outclassed his contemporaries like the way he has done. Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor - his prominent contemporaries - were banished to the backblocks by the early 1990s but Amitabh is still relevant both as an actor and Box Office star.
He briefly hit the wall in the mid-1990s but made a stunning comeback to the silver screen with 'Mohabbatein' in 2000. Since then, he has been playing prominent, lead roles in most of his movies even at the age of 78. Sure the Box Office returns aren't as hefty as they used to be in his prime but neither are the budgets. So, he remains a saleable, solid star even in the twilight.
In his heyday, between 1975-1985, he was, without an exaggeration, the undisputed and uncrowned emperor of Bollywood with no one else even in the vicinity of his clout. So unimpeachable was his stranglehold that Jeetendra, who was a distant second between 1980-85, once remarked. "Bachchan is no.1 to 10 in the pecking order. I start from 11."
Overall, he has delievered the Highest Grosser of the Year (HGOTY) 5 times (Sholay, Amar Akbar Anthony, Muqaddar Ka Siaknder, Suhaag, Coolie) and he, along with Salman Khan, also holds the honour of delivering the highest grosser of the year three times in a row (1977, 1978, 1979). In fact, in 1978 three biggest grossers of the year (Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Trishul, Don) belonged to him.
2) Salman Khan
The ultimate marker of stardom is the ability to draw in hordes of crowd in the theatres on your own steam and whip out colossal blockbusters. On both these accounts, Salman Khan eclipses all the stars of any era. He has chalked up highest grosser of the year 10 times (Maine Pyaar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Saajan, Hum Saath Saath Hain, No Entry, Dabangg, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Tiger Zinda Hai) - highest by any superstar in Bollywood's history. What makes this feat even more remarkable is the fact that most of his HGOTY have him as a solo lead which is starkly different from Amitabh whose all HGOTY were multi-starrers.
Also, no other star has delivered more blockbusters or mammoth grossers as him with new or unheralded directors. Celebrated directors such as Sooraj Barjatya (Maine Pyaar Kiya), Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam), Kabir Khan (Ek Tha Tiger) and Ali Abbas Zafar (Sultan) unfurled their first blockbuster with Salman and hit the top league. The superstar has bashed out HGOTY and stupendous blockbusters even with unheralded directors such as Abhinav Kashyap (Dabangg), Arbaaz Khan (Dabangg 2) and Siddique (Bodyguard) which markedly emphasises his pulling power at the turnstile.
His other records include reeling off three biggest grossers of a year in 1999 (Hum Saath Saath Hain, Biwi No.1 and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam). On four occasions, he snapped up two biggest grossers of a year (1999, 2011, 2012 and 2015). Just like Bachchan, he has also delivered HGOTY three times in a row (2010, 2011 and 2012).
While Salman and Shah Rukh Khan shared the honours of being the biggest stars in the 1990s, Salman became the unchallenged Numero Uno between 2010-2019. During this phase, all the other factors such as the director, the supporting cast, production values and even the script because almost irrelevant and his mere presence ensured the film being a surefire blockbuster.
Another hallmark of his gargantuan stardom is that even his underperformers such as 'Race 3' and 'Jai Ho' do far bigger business than super-hits of others stars like Akshay Kumar.
No superstar, ever since Bachchan, has been so unanimously hailed as the 'primus inter pares'. The media, entire industry and trade scream from the rooftops, in unison, that even a poster of Salman outside the theatres is enough to rustle up euphoria. The critics keep a stiff upper lip.
His biggest rival at present - Aamir Khan - remarked humbly, "I need a script and a supremely competent director to churn out a blockbuster. Salman simply stands in the frame and people go berserk. He's a true-blue superstar. I don't have brute star-power like he has."
3) Dilip Kumar
Though the media always talked about the 'Dilip-Dev Anand-Raj Kapoor' trinity, the Box Office and acting prowess of Dilip Kumar was a notch above his contemporaries. While Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar were neck-to-neck till the mid-60s, Dilip took a giant leap in his second-innings which began from 'Kranti' in 1981. He followed it up many major hits such as 'Vidhata', 'Karma' and 'Saudagar'. Raj and Dev fell by the wayside by the turn of 1970s and never regained their pulling power at the ticket windows.
When it comes to him, his stellar acting finesse is talked about in glowing terms by one and all but his Box Office record is mostly consigned to the footnote. Though Rajesh Khanna was called the first superstar of Bollywood, going by the record the sobriquet should have been bestowed upon Dilip Kumar much before the arrival of Khanna.
Overall, Dilip Kumar has 9 HGOTY to his name (Jugnu, Shaheed, Aan, Madhumati, Mughal e Azam, Ganga Jumna, Kranti, Vidhaata, Karma) and he's only behind Salman on this benchmark. Other shining feat of him is his hit ratio which is the best ever by any leading mainstream star in Bollywood. Since then, only Aamir Khan has come close to his hit ratio, prudence, quality of films and script sense.
Without a smidgen of doubt, the most underrated superstar of Bollywood. Despite staggering number of hits, creditable consistency and fine range as an actor, he was never feted as a superstar. Perhaps because, he was always destined to play the bridesmaid, first to Rajesh Khanna between 1969-74 and then to Bachchan between 1975-1980.
But no one can take away the credit that he holds the record for maximum number of hits, around 50, by any Bollywood actor to date. Even Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan - two biggest superstars of Bollywood - have not delivered 50 'clean' hits. If one includes semi-hits or moderately successful movies, the number for Dharmendra goes up to 75 which is mind-boggling.